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Diseases You Can Get From Your Pets: Worms, Rabies, and More

Can Your Pet Make You Sick?

Zoonotic illnesses are diseases humans can get from animals. Many infectious diseases can spread from animals to people, and some of these can come from your pet. But before you become too alarmed, know that getting diseases from a pet is pretty uncommon, and that you can prevent most of them with some very simple steps. For example, teach children not to kiss pets or put their hands in their mouths after touching them. Frequent hand washing and regular vet checks are two other great ways to help prevent a wide range of diseases from pets. This includes diseases from dogs, diseases from cats, diseases from birds, or diseases from reptiles.

Zoonotic Illnesses You Can Get from Your Pet

These are a few of the more common diseases you might get from your pet. People with weak immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, may be more vulnerable than healthy individuals and should take special care.

Rabies

Caused by a virus and spread through bites, rabies is a disease that affects the nervous system and is generally fatal. Early signs may be fever or headache. This can quickly develop into symptoms of confusion, sleepiness, or agitation. Although rabies can be spread from pets such as a dog or cat, you are more likely to get it from a wild animal.

Reduce the risk of rabies:

  • Keep your pet's vaccinations up to date.
  • Do what you can to prevent your pet having contact with wild animals.
  • Have animal control remove any stray animals. Don't try to care for them yourself.
  • Tell your doctor right away if an animal bites you.

Toxoplasmosis

Caused by a protozoan organism, toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms in some people. If you're pregnant or getting ready to become pregnant, it is particularly important to be aware of this disease, as it can infect a fetus and cause an abortion or serious birth defect. You are most likely to get toxoplasmosis from eating partially cooked meat or from contact with animal feces while gardening. But you can also get it from contact with contaminated cat feces.

Reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis:

  • Avoid direct contact with kitty litter or areas that may be contaminated by cat feces.
  • Wash hands after contact with litter.
  • If you are pregnant or have a weak immune system, have another family member clean and change kitty litter daily while wearing gloves. Also, keep your cat indoors to reduce its risk of infection.
  • Don't feed your cat raw or undercooked meat, and avoid it yourself.

Cat scratch disease (bartonellosis)

This bacterial disease is spread from cat to cat by fleas, but people usually become infected from a cat scratch or bite. If you develop cat scratch disease, you may develop a mild infection and flu-like symptoms or more serious problems such as damage to the valves in the heart.

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WebMD Veterinary Reference

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